meeting reports

 

MEETING REPORTS

Clive Parker: Job Talk 16 January 2018

This week’s speaker was Clive Parker who, as a recent member of the Club, gave his job talk by way of introduction to fellow Rotarians.

A native of Hereford, Clive took up an apprenticeship with PO Telephones in 1969 and spent his first 10 years as a technician in Hereford, Shrewsbury and Telford, taking various City and Guilds

qualifications and first aid training courses on a day release basis. He transferred to Wales in 1979, first to Machynlleth and shortly after to Aberystwyth.

Despite its reputation as being behind the times, Aberystwyth at that time was in the forefront of telephone innovation and Clive soon became involved in early field trials of optical fibre and radio links between towns, villages and hamlets in Mid Wales. One of his early projects was developing remote patient telephone monitoring systems for the NHS.

Privatisation in 1984 led to the creation of BT and opened the way for more technological innovations while at the same time increasing the role of administrators and accountants. The spread of broadband, mobile phones, microwave transmitters and digital exchanges brought major changes to UK telecommunications generally, requiring frequent skills updates and the adoption of new working practices. At the same time Clive took the opportunity to become involved in specific projects (for example setting up more than 100 land lines and mobile communication systems for the 1992 Eisteddfod site in Aberystwyth) while continuing to develop his health and safety roles.

With the creation of Open Reach in 2005, Clive took on the role of Communications Design Engineer and became responsible for network integrity in West Wales.

Clive continued to study in his own time and gained a BA in Youth and Childhood Studies in 2013 before finally retiring from Open Reach in 2014. He still offers training courses in Coleg Ceredigion, where his contribution is widely appreciated.

Clive was warmly thanked for his presentation by Vice President Michael Deaville.

 

 

Professor Elizabeth Treasure, Vice Chancellor of Aberystwyth University 9 January 2018

At its first meeting of the New Year, the Club extended a warm welcome to Professor Elizabeth Treasure, who had been appointed Vice Chancellor of Aberystwyth University last April.

Professor Treasure shared with members and their guests her own background before moving on to talk about her new role at the University.

Born in Glasgow, she qualified with a BDS and PhD in Dentistry at Birmingham University before embarking on a career in dentistry and management. She took up a post at the University of Otago in New Zealand before returning to the UK in 1995 as Senior Lecturer and what was then the Welsh College of Medicine before its merger with Cardiff University. She undertook various academic roles there before being appointed Deputy Vice Chancellor. She is a keen skier, walker and cook and enjoys socialising with friends and family.

As to her role in Aberystwyth University, she focused on the challenges faced by the sector as a whole and those particular to here. The removal of the cap on student numbers in England has led to major expansion in some universities (20% in Cardiff, for example), which, coupled with the introduction of full cost fees of £9000, has caused significant problems for those which had failed to maintain their numbers. Aberystwyth was in this latter group as the undergraduate intake has fallen from a historic high in 2010 to around 2000 or so in recent years. This has resulted in a loss of more than £20 million fee income each year, necessitating a review of current staffing levels and activities.

There are opportunities for Aberystwyth in all this. Where numbers have increased there is evidence in some universities of a decline in standards, outcomes and the student experience. The University has engaged marketing experts to advise on how it can take advantage of these trends and reposition itself, building upon its improved league table ratings, bringing it back to its pre-2010 position, and its more recent award of Times University of the Year in Teaching Quality. This will focus on the unique features of the University, its surrounding environment and the high quality student support which has continued to improve, despite recent challenges. It will also work to achieve as major increase in overseas student numbers, where the University has been underperforming in recent years.

Professor Treasure was delighted to have won £5 million of Welsh Government funding towards the redevelopment of Pantycelyn, due to re-open in 2019, and is working with internal and external partners and UMCA, the Welsh Students’ Union, to ensure that we have a vibrant Welsh student community by reversing the decline in numbers from Wales by then.

Of the two other major projects in hand, Old College is due to revamped, with significant support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, bringing potential financial and cultural benefits for the town and University alike. She mentioned that the Gogerddan Campus redevelopment may be delayed slightly as costings are carefully reviewed.

Other issues she has been dealing with include the fall out of the Mauritius Campus enterprise, where further recruitment will be stopped. The University continues to focus on research opportunities across the University to maximise impact and funding wherever feasible.

Professor Treasure is looking forward to the 150th anniversary of the University on 2022 and will work with staff, students and the community to ensure its continued success.

In response, Past President Dr John Harries, former Pro Vice Chancellor of the University, thanked Professor Treasure most warmly on behalf and members and their guests, for such a wide ranging and enjoyable presentation and wished her and the University every success, particularly given its importance to the town and the keen interest with which its future is followed by local people.

 

 

Cynan Jones 12 December 2017

Members learned with much sadness of the death of Gwyn Lewis, Past President of the Club and Honorary Member since 2009. Rtn Huw Spencer Lloyd gave a short address on Gwyn’s enthusiastic contribution to the work of the Club and his active engagement with the local community as JP. Parish and county councillor and respected sheep farmer, always keen to keep up with scientific advances to improve the health and hence quality of his animals. Members offered sincere condolences to Gwyn’s widow, Beatrice, and his daughter and grandchildren of whom he was so proud.

The guest speaker this week was renowned local writer,Cynan Jones, winner of the Welsh Book of the Year in 2015 and the BBC Short Story Prize in 2016. Cynan learned the hard technical skills of successful writing as a freelance copywriter in Glasgow where he had to turn his hand to a wide range of material for businesses and local agencies. His first book, ‘The Long Dry’ was published in 2006 after he convinced publishers that his concise almost poetic style and innovative use of language, rich in images derived from the people and landscape of Ceredigion, deserved a wider audience. Since then he has written four further novels and had his work published in over 20 countries and a range of foreign languages. The last two, ‘The Dig’ and ‘Cove’ have been published by Granta.

Cynan shared with members insights into his creative process, involving long periods of mental reworking before retiring to his shed for intensive periods of writing. He has had inevitable encounters with the fickle world of publishing (‘this work is too long/ short’) but is very pleased that his work has been internally acknowledged. He has contributed to the script of the BBC series ‘Hinterland’, where he experienced first hand the very different demands and financial rewards of writing for television. He is currently the holder of an RLF Fellowship in Aberystwyth University.

Rtn Hywel Wyn Jones offered sincere appreciation of the talk on behalf of Club members and wished Cynan long and continued success in his writing.

 

 

 

Stephen Fearn: Aberystwyth Robotics Club 21 November 2017

Members gave a warm welcome to Steve Fearn, whose topic this week was the Aberystwyth Robotics Club, organised in the Physics Department of Aberystwyth University. The Club has been running for more than four years now and is aimed at youngsters aged 12 and above. Currently some 30 children attend after school on Wednesdays, using the same lab facilities as undergraduate students.

The Club enables youngsters to experience different types of robot technology and its uses in the real world, multiple means of motion on land and sea, and the various forms of control, including autonomous, semi-autonomous and telepresence. They help design, create and programme machines which can interact with and learn from their environment. The Club sets out to engage youngsters in learning, encourage their creativity and build trust between leaders and participants.

University undergraduates act as student ambassadors and contribute enormously to the Club’s success and themselves gain skills which can help in future employment.

Steve brought along a part of a steel claw which the Club developed for its entry into the BBC’s ‘Robot Wars’ programme, which gave members a better idea of the size and strength of machine needed to compete successfully. He also gave a practical demonstration of robots operating in a confined place and interacting with each other according to their programming.

The Club won a prestigious national STEM award in 2016 and puts on a number of public shows each year, including an annual event on the Aber Promenade which always generates much interest.

It benefits enormously from the University’s involvement in the ExoMars 2020 project, major features of which have been designed and built here. Steve showed a number of parts of the Mars Rover which had been developed to enhance the quality of pictures to taken on the next expedition, calibrate colours to assist in the identification of samples and help in navigation of the surface of the planet.

 

Young Musicians Competition 14 November 2017

Club members and their guests recently enjoyed a wonderful evening’s musical entertainment when the first round of the Rotary Young Musicians Competition was held in the Marine Hotel. The performances were a credit to the talents of the young performers and all who support them.

After much careful deliberation by the adjudicators, Eirwen Hughes and Louise Amery, it was agreed that the following should proceed into the next round, to be held in Ysgol Penglais in January: Guto Ifan Lewis (vocalist), Erin Hassan (French horn).

Aberystwyth Rotary Club gratefully acknowledges the support of Cerdd Ystwyth in Aberystwyth in providing the prizes awarded on the night.

 

 

Matthew Newbold: Advancing Aberystwyth ar y blaen 31 October 2017

Members gave a warm welcome to Matthew Newbold who provided an overview of Advance Aberystwyth ar y Blaen, the company which has been set up to manage the second phase of the BID project over the years to March 2021.
The company is managed by a Board of Directors drawn from the local business community, with funding derived from a levy equivalent to 1% of business rates. This funding is expected to produce some £900,000 over the four years of the project to be spent on initiatives in the town. The four broad areas covered are improving access to facilities, promoting and marketing the town, developing stronger business opportunities and strengthening links between public and private bodies within the town.
A number of themed routes have already been identified: marketing and connectivity, the night time economy, digital tourism and identifying areas where participating businesses may reduce their expenditure (for example in energy and telecommunication costs). In this latter case, potential savings have more than covered the cost of the business levy.
Advance Aberystwyth ar y Blaen is working on a range of projects with local partners with the aim of adding value and increasing the impact of current activities. It is not intended to replace current spending by, for example, the town or county council. Additional money has been allocated to improving the town’s Christmas Lighting and extending the number of streets covered as well as promoting free parking in the run up to Christmas. The Board is seeking to extend the town’s visitor attractions and improve signage where it is perceived to be in need of upgrade.
There was a lively interchange of ideas and views after the presentation, reflecting the general desire to increase the attractiveness of the town and generate additional footfall for businesses.
Past President Richard Griffiths, on behalf of members, thanked Matthew for his informative talk and expressed the hope that the project would achieve positive and lasting outcomes for the town.

 

 

Emily Thomas RYLA Scholar 24 October 2017

The speaker at this week’s meeting was Emily Thomas, an Ysgol Penglais pupil from Bontgoch, who had been sponsored by the Club to attend a Rotary Youth Leadership Award (RYLA) programme in the Brecon Beacons last July.

Emily gave an excellent presentation on the activities she had taken part in and the key inter-personal skills she had developed on the RYLA course. Based on outdoor activities, youngsters were divided into teams, one of which took take the lead in organising the day’s events. Emily’s team was responsible for the gorge walking activity on the first full day of the course, the challenges of which she thoroughly enjoyed. Successive days were then spent caving, an evening climb up Pen y Fan and canoeing on the Brecon Canal. The final exercise was to design and build a boat from the minimal materials provided and row it across a river. The exercises were designed to encourage participants out of their comfort and to test themselves in a new environment. Those who pushed themselves the hardest undoubtedly gained the most.

Emily came away from the course with many new friends, increased self confidence and positive team building skills. She had to conquer her own fear of confined spaces in the caving experience, take on a leadership role when others were reluctant to do so and also become more aware of her own mental and physical limitations. The RYLA course is potentially a life changing challenge and offers participants memories and friendships which will last a lifetime.

 

 

 

 

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